On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.
It seemed that the rain would never cease. The clouds, dark and swollen, had long ago replaced blue skies. Even the songbirds seemed tired of the dismal weather. They perched forlornly in the pear tree, huddling together for comfort. “I know how they feel, God,” I said as I stood at the window peering out on the meadow. “It’s been one challenge after another lately. I want shelter in the storms of life.”
“I’ll shelter you,” God answered me. “Give me your burdens and rest easy in my love and protection.” He slipped His arm around my shoulder. A crack appeared in the clouds toward the east, a streak of robin-egg blue breaking through the gray.
“You’ll give me the strength to carry on, won’t you?” I asked.
God pulled me tightly to His side and waved His hand to the clouds. They scattered across the sky, revealing the warm sun that had been shining behind them all along. “I will always give you the strength you need,” He replied.
The huddled birds moved apart and burst into song, rejoicing in the light. I too, began to sing, humming at first, then belting out the words, a bit off-key, but full of joy—my soul safe and strong.
Blessed are the poor in spirit for they know the kingdom of heaven.
As I turned the last corner towards home, four deer leaped across the path in front of me, their brown bodies gleaming in the last rays of sunlight. I listened to them as they bounded away through the manzanitas.
“They know what it is to be blessed,” God said to me as I continued walking. “They live their lives guided by my Spirit. It is only man who strays from me, missing out on my Kingdom by seeking fame and fortune, exalting himself above others.”
“I want to live my life guided by you. How do I do that?” I asked as the path grew darker. I reached out for God’s hand to help me as my steps became harder to discern in the fading light.
“This is a good start,” God said. ” Always reach for me, and rely on me, not on yourself.”
My footsteps startled a covey of quail resting in a tall oak. They rose all at once and flew on the breath of God, towards the meadow. I watched them until I could no longer make them out in the inky sky. “I’ll let go and rely on you as the animals do,” I said, and gripped His hand more tightly.
Slowly, surely, God led me back home, back to His heart, back to where He’s always been, back to where He will always be.
Give God your worries; He cares for you.
~1 Peter 5:7
The dark night stretched on and on, a fierce wind blowing against my shivering body. I stumbled and fell into a shallow ditch I didn’t see. Twigs and branches scratched at my face and hands. “God, help me!” I cried out, wondering if He could hear me above the howl of the wind.
“I’m here,” God said gently as He lifted me up onto my feet.
“Thank you,” I said, pulling small sticks out of my hair. I leaned into the wind, and once more, began walking.
“This night is fraught with peril,” God said and raised me up into His strong arms. He carried me all the way home.
The light shines in the darkness.
The sun waved goodbye to the day and slipped below the horizon. I watched from the bench under the pear tree as the last of the light faded from the garden. The twinkle lights on the arbor began to shine in the darkness, casting a sweet glow to the yard. “Those lights have been on all day,” I said. “But they shine best in the darkness. Sorta like you, God.”
“I understand. Even though my light is constant, the darkness makes it appear the brightest,” God answered.
“Yes. You’re my beacon of strength and hope when times are hard. You light the way for me. Thank you,” I replied.
“You are welcome, Sparrow. Please don’t forget that my light is there in the good times as well. Don’t ignore it. Let it lead you all the days of your life, not just when you are troubled or afraid,” God instructed.
I sat in silence for a few moments, pondering His words. “You’re right. I rely on you less when times are good,” I confessed. “I’m sorry.”
“Here, take my hand. Let’s walk back to the cottage,” God invited.
I stood up and God threw a handful of stars across the dark sky. They danced above us, sprinkling their light on our steps as we made our way back home together.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace
as you trust in him, so that you
may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
I can’t remember who taught me how to ride a bicycle. I do remember the dirt lane that I tried to navigate and the big pine tree that I crashed into. I recall the bike wobbling side to side as I desperately tried to keep my balance. It took me quite a few attempts and quite a few falls before I could ride comfortably. But once I learned, there was no stopping me. I rode my bike everywhere. (It was great being a kid in the ’60’s. So much freedom!)
This morning I felt like a part of my life was wobbling side to side and that soon, I’d cash into something. I snapped Shakespeare’s leash to his harness and off we went for a walk. That’s always a good remedy for when I’m stressed out. It didn’t take long until I felt God’s hand on my shoulder. “You’re worried,” He said.
“I’ve got this really big responsibility on my shoulders and I’m not sure I am up for it,” I said. “I’ll feel like an idiot if I make a mistake.”
“If you knew that your big responsibility was part of the plan I had for you, would you feel differently about it?” God asked.
“I’d feel even more stressed! I’d want to be perfect for you!” The minute the words left my mouth I knew how silly they were. I know God doesn’t expect me to be perfect.
“What if I run along beside you, and I guide you, Would you feel better?”
“Would you do that for me?”
“Of course! God said.
I knew that much like learning to ride my bike, I’ll learn how to navigate this big responsibility if God runs along beside me. I may crash from time to time, but once I learn, there will be no stopping me. Wait. Correct that. There will be no stopping us. Once I learn, I’ll be peddling but God will be riding on the handlebars, pointing the way.
“You’ve got this!” God said, and patted me on my back. I grinned from ear to ear.
“Thanks!” I said, and turned towards home.
“In all your ways acknowledge him…”
When God has closed one door but hasn’t opened the next one, praise Him in the hallway. It is sometimes easier said than done, I know. But it’s such good advice to take to heart. No matter what you face today, God is there with you. It’s going to work out for the best, even if the storm seems darker than anything you’ve ever seen before. Hold onto God’s hand and remind yourself that you are in His great care. Don’t tell yourself scary stories and believe them. Don’t rely on your own understanding. Instead, rely on God, fully.
I know the hard times test our faith. It’s a challenge to wrap our heads around why God allows suffering. Instead of asking “Why?” ask “What?” “God, what can I do to serve you while I’m in this place of darkness?” Then praise Him! It’s interesting to note that when we praise God in all things, we re-wire our brains for the better. Praising God actually makes us smarter and healthier in the long run! Praise God today, no matter where you are.